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#1 2019-08-20 06:59

Registered: 2017-04-23
Posts: 70

Tests with lightweight browsers for use in a virtual machine

I have been making tests for building the slimmest possible virtual machine to run with VirtualBox, that includes a browser for Internet.

The main requirements for this VM are:
- as small as possible virtual disk file size
- minimal RAM requirement

Now, you may ask - why would I want a VM with a browser if I already have a browser on my host machine. The main reason is one of security. If I go to the Q4OS forum, or to my bank site, I will use Firefox on my host computer. But sometimes when cliking on a link I ask myself where will that bring me - is it safe? In that case, I simply switch to my VM and I can go and see from inside the VM. Once I am finished, I revert the VM back to a snapshot and I am sure nothing wrong can happen. Also incidently, all cookies are automatically erased.

So, for this I have used Q4OS 2.7 in 32 bits, with the "pure" profile, Trinity desktop, VirtualBox guest additions and French language pack installed.
The fresh install uses 1.7 Gig of disk space, and at idle after boot the VM uses 94M of RAM.
After a bit of configuration, removal of unnecessary widgets (clock, Klipper, Sound mixer), I made a snapshot which became the base point from which I installed different browser options.

For each browser, after install I rebooted and loaded the browser with 2 pages in 2 separate tabs: (we all know this one) (this one is my personal web page)
and then opened a terminal and ran "free -h" to obtain the memory usage.
Also for each I checked from the apt writeup how much disk space is required/used for the installation.

Browsers tested are:

Konqueror (no installation required), 0 additional disk space needed, 173M of RAM

Midori, old version (0.5.11) from repos, installed by "sudo apt install midori", 263M of disk space, 132M of RAM

Midori, new version (8.0-31) from snap, installed by "sudo snap install midori", 250M of disk space, 166M of RAM

NetSurf 3.6, installed by "sudo apt install netsurf", 65M of disk space, 110M of RAM

Qupzilla 1.8.9, installed by "sudo apt install qupzilla", 106M of disk space, 255M of RAM

PaleMoon 28.6.1, downloaded the package palemoon_28.6.1+repack-2_i386.deb from … e=palemoon and installed with apt, 204M of disk space, 233M of RAM

Vivaldi 2.6, downloaded the package vivaldi-stable_2.6.1566.49-1_i386.deb from  and installed with apt, 300M of disk space, 227M of RAM

In addition to above, I have a VM with Q4OS 2.7 in 64 bits to which I have installed Chrome from the software manager in Q4OS. RAM usage was 272M with the 2 same pages opened. Now this is 64 bits, so the comparison is not fair, as it is normal that more RAM is used by the 64 bit system.

NetSurf is a clear winner for both minimal use of disk space and for memory usage. We may note the 110M reported by the "free" command is just 16 megs more than the VM at idle before loading the browser and the 2 pages. Quite incredible. This means I can just give 250M of memory to that VM and still be able to surf the Internet while keeping 3 or 4 loaded pages open in their respective tabs.

In second position we have Konqueror and Midori that are under 200M of RAM usage.

Qupzilla, PaleMoon and Vivaldi are all well over 200M, and in fact not so far from Chrome which is considered as very hungry in resource.

About NetSurf, the version 3.6 available from the repos is quite old (from 2016). There is a version 3.9 of July 2019 but needs to be compiled... It would be great if that newer version could be made easily available.

Hope this may help some...


#2 2019-08-20 08:56

From: UK
Registered: 2015-12-14
Posts: 2,715

Re: Tests with lightweight browsers for use in a virtual machine

One thing to remember would be to make sure the VM has some swap space, I do not usually use swap in a VM but in your case you can not be sure that the (unknown/unsafe) pages would not exceed your RAM provision and cause issues with the system. I know it is a VM and you could simply restore it to a previous state but it would not really help if you wanted to get the site information but crash beforehand.

Other than that great research and information, thanks for posting it. smile


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